Event Marketing Upgrades: Decor Edition

We’ve been planning and executing productions and events for over 15 years. This is the first installment in our series on Small Changes, Big Gains, where we explore 10 simple ways to elevate your event.

Lighting the Room

Event spaces that look great in sunlight often lose their charm when the stars come out. For all of its subtlety, quality lighting is essential for creating just the right aesthetic. But too often a lighter event can also mean a lighter wallet. That’s why we decided to lead off with three simple ways to turn up the ambient light:

1. With Fire: Humans have been using fire as a light source for… well, a while. But since Thomas Edison, firelight has become dramatically less common. And, as a consequence, it’s also become dramatically more charming. So consider candlelight to price down and class up your next event.

2. With Bulbs: Speaking of Thomas Edison, the light bulb may have been a technical marvel at the turn of the century, but today it’s a symbol of elegant simplicity. If Smoky The Bear gives you grief over candlelight, you can still bypass elaborate lighting rigs by suspending bulbs from the ceiling. The less embellished the better. And bistro-style string lights yield equal the charm for half the hassle.

3. With Video Projections: So far we’ve taken advantage of historic (and pre-historic!) solutions. But new technologies can often offer equal efficiency. Save big and light well by directing the glow of video projectors against reflective surfaces. This is particularly effective in tents.

Believe it or not, the entire space for the Pinnacle Cinnabon 24 Hour Brunch was filled with white walls. Video projections brought the party to life.

Adorning the Walls

When brands look to make an event space their own, they often begin by filling wallspace. But signage, art, and drapes can consume resources that are better spent wining, dining, and entertaining guests. So how do we dress the walls efficiently without compromising on style?

1. With Clings: Wall and mirror clings can give your space character without crowding your footprint or cramping your style. Simple, versatile, inexpensive, and attractive — what’s not to love?

2. With Balloons: Wait. Hear us out. Balloons are actually just as flexible in function as they are in form. We’ve seen them floated to the roof as elegant ceiling décor, repurposed as step-and-repeat paneling, and bunched together as colorful accent pieces. They look great, cost pennies, and leave guests marveling at your ability to make beauty from nothing.

3. With Lights: To enhance the drama of your décor, consider uplighting the walls with rich, candy-crush colors. Or, if your event palate is more subdued, consider gels on the white-to-gold spectrum. We also love uplighting walls because doing so can provide plenty of ambient light, assuaging two of our concerns at once.

Setting the Tables

And then, of course, there’s the task of impressing your guests when they get to the table. It’s always good to have strategies that are both affordable and chic.

1. With Menus: A visually-appealing branded menu with quality copy gives guests something tangible that they can handle and interact with. And if its look is in sync with the event’s other design elements, the menu can reinforce and enhance your chosen aesthetic.

2. With Mason Jars: You probably don’t need us to tell you that mason jars are coming back in a big way. Not only do they combine value and utility, but they also speak to your brand’s cultural awareness. Plus, they’re extraordinarily versatile. You can load them up with wildflowers for centerpieces or fill them with lemonade. Top that with a lemon wedge and a fancy straw and everyone will think you’re Martha Stewart.

3. With Linens: Even when the plates and their contents disappoint you, upgraded linens can seriously upgrade elegance. And if next-tier tablecloths don’t seem feasible, a simple improvement in the quality of napkins can achieve the same effect. As with the menu, napkins are one of the few items at the table that guests actually spend time handling.

The after party following the USOC 2016 Team USA Awards incorporated several items on this list, including candles, custom menus, and quality linens.

The Golden Rule

If you’ve been keeping count, you’ll notice that we’re 1 solution short of our promised 10. That’s because we’ve been saving the best for last. Here’s our golden rule for enhancing quality while avoiding sticker shock.

With a theme: When it comes to event planning, no single element can have as large an impact as theme. And we’re not even talking about the content of your theme here. Whether you pick thrifting as your theme to match the moment or go with black-and-white to match your guests’ apparel, what matters most is coherence. If every element — lights, walls, table, menu, entertainment, and beyond — speaks clearly to your theme, your event will look great. Plus, it will guarantee success when it comes to the real purpose of the event: communicating your message.

The michael alan group is a full-service experiential marketing agency & event production company. Check out our work and our team, and drop us a line to chat about upgrading decor at your next event.

A Comprehensive Gift Guide for Event Producers and Designers

The holidays have arrived! We’re ecstatic about the music, the lights, and most certainly the food, but shopping for presents can sometimes be a bit of a stress. While we can’t exactly compile gift ideas for your friends and family, we’re quite the experts on what to gift event professionals! We’re positive you’ll find something perfect for any event prof in your life.

Desk Necessities

When they’re not scoping out a venue or onsite for the big event, event producers spend a fair amount of time at their desks. Why not help them spruce up their home away from home?

  • Coffee Warming Coaster
    Ever been so focused that, next thing you know, your fresh cup of coffee is suddenly lukewarm and less than delicious? Event people know. And they’ll be ecstatic to receive a gift that keeps their caffeine at the tastiest temperature.
  • Bubble Wrap Calendar
    It’s no secret, working in events can be stressful. What better way to relieve stress than by popping some bubble wrap? With this calendar, anyone can find a calm moment of *POP* … zen.
  • Pocket Notebooks
    Between meetings, brainstorms, and unexpected ideas, producers and designers alike have a lot to scribble down. These Ames and Oates pocket journals are especially fantastic because, through their partnership with Pencils of Promise, 10% of every gift order is donated to provide children access to quality education.
  • Desk Plant
    A little green can go a long way to brighten up someone’s desk space. From succulents to ferns to fresh herbs, there’s bound to be the right plant for any event expert.
  • Votive Candles
    Still looking for relaxing desk accessories? Votive candles are the perfect fit for slowing down the day and taking a deep breath.
  • Silly Putty
    If desk decor is all covered, how about a more retro stress reliever? Silly Putty can be a calming distraction and a fun throw-back to younger years.

Office Upgrades

Every individual has personal desk preferences, but here are a few office upgrades the entire crew would enjoy.

  • In-House Masseuse
    Maybe clearing out space for a permanent masseuse is a little too much to ask for, but Soothe, the massage delivery app, makes it easy to bring the spa to the team.
  • In-House Manicures
    Similar to the above, a permanent nail artist may be a bit much, but Glamsquad will bring these services directly to the office door.
  • Fully Stocked Mini Fridge
    Winning a project. Wrapping up a successful event. Employee birthdays. Just because. All are valid reasons to have a fully-stocked mini fridge ready for any office celebration.
  • Branded Office Slippers
    On dreary days when half the team trudges in with soaked shoes, an office-wide supply of slippers would be a blessing. Even better? Bump it up a notch with some branding.
  • Cold Brew Keg
    Fuel the team (and save everyone a few dollars) with the office’s own cold brew keg.
  • T-Shirt Gun
    Every event professional has witnessed a t-shirt gun in action. And every event team has (probably) wanted their own.
  • Confetti Cannons
    For the crew that already has a fully stocked mini fridge, confetti cannons might just be the next-best addition to those office celebrations.


Onsite Essentials

The big event can often come with big stresses. Here are some gift ideas that just might save the day.

  • Discreet Phone Charger
    Ever been surprised by a 10% battery warning at 10AM? This sneaky bracelet comes to the rescue with an iPhone charger hidden inside.
  • Smart Water Bottle
    Event days are LONG days. Help someone ensure they’re still staying hydrated with a water bottle that tracks it for them.
  • Coffee Gift Card
    ’nuff said.
  • Tackle Box
    Event day survival kits are almost always a must, and a tackle box serves as the perfect container.
  • Laser Measure
    Being able to easily grab measurements and ensure event elements have the space they need is critical, and this little laser measure is just the tool for the job.
  • Multifunctional Phone Case
    Screwdrivers, tweezers, scissors, and a toothpick are all tools that could definitely come in handy onsite. With this, they’re all conveniently packed into a phone case.

Tech the Halls

The ever-exciting (and often quite pricey) tech section of the gift guide. But even event production experts have a fair share of gadgets they’d love to get their hands on.

  • Wireless Headphones
    Equipped with these, any event producer’s Beyonce-themed work session can always play on, even if they step away from their desk.
  • Bluetooth Speaker
    The right music for an event is essential, as are the tools for playing the tunes. With bluetooth, speakers can live anywhere. Plus, for every speaker sold, LSTN helps provide hearing aids to a person in need through the Starkey Hearing Foundation.
  • Wacom Cintiq Pro
    For the creative team at the agency, this Wacom product will help them take their craft to the next level.
  • Oculus Rift
    As an experiential marketing agency, we live in many different realities. So, naturally, much of our team wouldn’t mind a headset of their own.
  • Smartpen Transcriber
    Imagine wildly scribbled notes being automatically delivered to a device as clean digital text. Need we say more?
  • Portable Projector
    Meetings can take a team to an unpredictable array of offices. With this, no one needs to worry if the right presentation tools will be available for the big pitch.
  • Video Drone
    Have you seen drone captured footage? It’s SO COOL and incredibly useful for documenting big events.

Treat Yo Event Prof’

Because they deserve it. 🙂

  • Plane Tickets for a Getaway
    Event people often love to explore, so send them somewhere new and exciting. Trust us, they’ll probably return with a venue or two to bookmark for international events.
  • Spa Day
    There’s no going wrong with this classic treat.
  • Adult Coloring Books
    They’re insanely popular right now, and many people rave about the therapeutic benefits of coloring. Perhaps these should be in “Desk Necessities”?
  • Concert or Theatre Tickets
    Event professionals often have an insider’s understanding of what it takes to put on a show, so they’ll love the chance to indulge in being an attendee.
  • Drink of Choice
    This will vary by personal preference, but members of our team would love to be treated to margaritas, red wine, or Johnnie Walker Blue.

Pie in the Sky

While we asked our team for input on this entire list, these final suggestions seemed just a bit aspirational.

  • A Live, Rideable Dragon
    Probably not going to happen…
  • Police Escort Through Traffic When Running Late
    A presidentially inspired idea, but perhaps a more obnoxious alarm would be a cheaper alternative.
  • Bag of Cash
    It may be wishful thinking, but a bag of cash would never be a bad gift.

Do you have more gift ideas for the event producers and designers you know? Comment below!

We wish everyone a happy and bright holiday season. 🙂

15 Years of MAG and 15 Things to Be Thankful For

While we should of course aim to be thankful throughout the year, the holidays are almost like an outlook meeting reminder in case we find ourselves slacking. This holiday season brings an unusually profound reminder as MAG celebrates 15 years in business. As I look back on these remarkable 15 years, here’s what I’m particularly thankful for.

1. My Wife

She’s been through it all with me. From the day we started the company 15 years ago, she’s watched me grow both personally and professionally. Whether it’s preparing for a pitch, entertaining a client, or traveling for a project, she knows what it takes to run a business and supports me any way she can.

2. My Kids

To me there’s nothing more innocent than your child asking you questions about your day, hearing about what they did in school, and just laughing together. It’s so important to laugh, and my kids help me do that each and every day.

3. My Team

When I’m not at home I’m at work, and I couldn’t be prouder or luckier to surround myself with the most dedicated, talented, and kindest group of people I know. They come up with the most creative ideas, execute the most multifaceted projects, and throughout it all keep the clients happy, all of which deserves tremendous recognition.

4. Our Clients

We would not be where we are today if it were not for our clients. Some of which we’re fortunate to say we’ve had since the day we started 15 years ago. Our clients challenge us, push us to do things that haven’t been done before, and for that we couldn’t be more thankful. We all chose this profession because we didn’t want to do the same thing day in and day out. Our work and accomplishments reflect that.

5. My Mentors

I didn’t learn how to run a business in college. Hell, I’m still learning how to do it. But I couldn’t have gotten this far without the support from a handful of individuals who over the years were there for me whenever I needed them.

6. Culture Cookies

Sometimes you just need a fresh baked chocolate chip cookie. And fortunately for us, Culture cookies are just down the block.

7. Flywheel

Running a business is stressful (and eating too may cookies is fattening) so to counter both I try and lose some calories whenever I can. Flywheel’s been my burn of choice. When the lights go down and the music turns up, I sort of lose myself for 45 minutes.

8. Living in the City

I didn’t grow up in the city, and can’t say I ever imagined my kids would, but they are, and so far it seems to be working out. The city has so much to offer, and I push myself to ensure we take advantage of that as much as possible.

9. Guerrilla Marketing for Dummies

Several years ago the folks at Wiley Publishing asked if I wanted to write a book on the industry. It’s not something I ever thought about doing, but with the help of a former colleague, we did it. It’s since been translated into multiple languages and become part of curriculums in Universities around the world. I’m thankful I pushed myself for those 6 months and feel good each and every time I present a copy to a client.

10. The West Coast

Yes I love living in NY, but also love leaving it every once in a while. My trips to LA pretty much guarantee me great food, great weather, and a chance to connect with clients I may not see as often as I’d like.

11. Events like the United States Olympics Committee Team USA Awards

We’re fortunate enough to do a lot of great events for a variety of high profile clients and brands. Every so often we do one that truly touches me. Having the opportunity to produce the USOC Team USA Awards this past year allowed us the opportunity to honor those athletes that represented our country in the 2016 Olympic Games.

12. … or The New York Marathon

Sure, waking up at 4am can be tough, but not as tough as for those about to run 26.2 miles. We have the great pleasure of being one of many agencies that help produce one of the most amazing events in the country, perhaps the world. Each and every year I’m in awe of those that take to the streets and push themselves to cross 5 boroughs all the way to the finish line.

13. Trusted Vendors and Partners

There’s a point in a project when you can only do so much. You’ve created the concept, designed the experience, and secured the elements. Then you turn to trusted partners such as a printer, caterer, or premium supplier. Sometimes you have months to plan and other times you have only days. You appreciate them for being there each and every time.

14. Our Brand Ambassadors

Over the years we’ve gathered a database of thousands of Brand Ambassadors across the country (and lately across the globe as well). Sometimes it’s warm and sunny, sometimes it’s cold and blistery. Regardless of the conditions our teams stay “on” the entire time, and that never ceases to impress me.

15. The Next 15

It’s been an incredible 15 years. Countless brainstorms, proposals, pitches and productions. I can only imagine what the next 15 years will bring. Regardless, the years should be filled with health and happiness for all my family, friends, colleagues and clients.

How I Learned to Stop Hating and Love the Female Boss

I have an admission to make. I was once an anti female-bossian.

For those already confused, this is a (potentially grammatically incorrect) term I’ve coined for people who are opposed to female bosses. Based on a paltry two experiences at former companies, I had decided that female bosses are mercurial, illogical and (in some instances) capable of flat-out cruelty. Of course, the illogical one here was me.

I came to this “conclusion” based on two samples and luck; I had simply never had a male boss who had behaved this way, even though the examples of misbehaving male bosses are legion.

My reasoning was of course inane, but others share the sentiment. Though the reputation of female leaders is improving, a Gallup Poll conducted in 2014 shows that, when evaluating a new job, 33% of Americans prefer a male boss, 20% prefer a female boss and 46% have no preference. Okay, not terrible – but here is the data I found most surprising – while women are more likely than men to be “pro female-bossian,” women still prefer male bosses overall.


(Aside: Is this really 2016? The role of women in the workplace, the gap between how female leaders are expected to act and how they should act to get ahead and gender politics – all of this feels so far from where it should be. But I digress.)

Reader, I’m here to tell you how I learned to stop hating and love the female boss. How did this happen? Easy. I started working for a veritable utopia of female-bossianism: the michael alan group. While our fearless leader and CEO is a man, our COO, Senior Vice President and Vice President are all women and this has a massively positive effect on the work culture.


When producing and nurturing are part of the fabric of the organization, nobody’s losing by helping others. In fact, it pays off in dividends with the work we produce.

From my first week at MAG, when I had two weeks to produce a mobile tour, I was met with endless support from the entire company. Everyone, from the senior leadership on down, was tireless in answering my questions and providing me with helpful contacts, knowledge and advice. Nearly five years later, that continues to be the case. There is a genuine feeling of community here, and when you are faced with a task that you have no idea how to tackle, you know that a senior or a peer will always have time to help you.

The amazing part about this? Eventually you realize that you can solve the problems yourself, and help the next generation of MAGsters along.

While this ethos was originally instituted by our (male) CEO, Jonathan, I don’t see how this could be implemented so pervasively if we didn’t have so many women around us. I recognize that this is a dangerous line of thinking. As a recent NYTimes Op/Ed reminded us, in many places the expectation for women to be nurturing is a double edged sword – they must act this way, yet it is at their own expense.

But therein lies the secret sauce of MAG. When producing and nurturing are part of the fabric of the organization, nobody’s losing by helping others. In fact, it pays off in dividends with the work we produce.

Others have noticed. In the past year, our female leaders have been recognized for kicking butt at what they do and being awesome leaders. Our COO, Erin Mills, was recognized as one of Event Marketer’s Leading Women in Events, our Senior Vice President, Jill Brand, received Min’s Rising Star Award and our Vice President, Elizabeth Walker, received the Rising Star Award from Cynopsis Media.

From left to right, COO, Erin Mills, participates in Event Marketer’s Leading Women in Events Roundtable, Senior Vice President, Jill Brand, receives Min’s Rising Star Award, and Vice President, Elizabeth Walker, receives Cynopsis Media’s Rising Star Award.

I end this with this statement: I now recognize the error of my old beliefs. I am now strongly pro-female boss, and while other work environments may not experience the same utopian benefits, I’m optimistic that we will all get there regardless of the gender breakdown in the office. Until then, I will feel lucky to be surrounded by such amazing women each day when I come to the office. And so, as we celebrate women’s history month, I am reminded that here on West 38th Street, the sisterhood has carved out a slice of strength and support, and when that happens – we all profit.

Out of Office: Why It’s Important to Make Time for Professional Development

“Fresh & Profesh” is one of those lesser known mantras, but one you can hear often in the halls of MAG. We do experiential marketing, which means we are challenged to consistently be creative…or “fresh,” if you will. We have to be on the cutting edge, leveraging the newest emerging technologies, and consistently conjuring up that which you haven’t yet seen. Doing so is of course a ton of fun (I dare you to look at the crazy things we Google search), but it also requires consistent work to make sure we are always familiar with what is out there, what other brands are doing, and what the trades and blogs are talking about.

With all of that said, one of my personal favorite ways of remaining competitive is secret option D – Conferences and Events – all things “Professional Development.” Don’t roll your eyes just yet; I swear they can be valuable…and fun!

This past fall I had the pleasure of attending two conferences in one week. So since I’ve done the leg work for you, here’s a bit of a crash course on what I learned (hint: a lot of it doesn’t even have to do with the specific conference description!).

Learning is cool.

Unless you take continuing education classes (which I do and I recommend by the way), sitting in a room with the intention of just learning is not something grownups get to do very often. It’s a total shame, because learning about things that are interesting is really fun. I went to min’s Social Media Bootcamp at the Yale Club and heard experts from brands like Refinery29, Conde Nast Traveler, and Cosmopolitan and Seventeen Magazine speak about how the have grown their brands’ social media followings. I walked away with a serious tool kit of tips that I have already implemented since attending.

Interesting people attend conferences.

Events and conferences are a really great way to mix and mingle with like-minded and unlike-minded folks, both categories of which offer a lot of value. You’ll have a chance to talk to people who work in similar industries, as well as a whole host of others who don’t. This harkens back to the “fresh” I mentioned earlier. It can be extremely valuable to learn what others across a wide variety of businesses and industries are up to, as more often than not, you will find parallels to what you are doing as well. And of course, you just might meet some new biz contacts as well!

Fast Company's Innovation Festival

Fast Company’s Innovation Festival. Image courtesy of Fast Company.


Talk to strangers.

Sitting at a 60’’ round with 11 people you don’t know is hard enough. Add to that a self-conducted round table discussion and you’ve got yourself a sitch. This is exactly the circumstances in which I found myself at one of the conferences I attended; due to a shortage of moderators, table 26 was a sovereign entity amidst a sea of governed bodies. While at first I was a bit annoyed (really, I have to be at the awkward table with the painfully long pauses?!), it turned out to be a really fun exercise. All 12 of us stepped up to the plate (okay, maybe 10 out of 12), and the resulting dialogue was engaging and worthwhile and took many fascinating turns as we navigated a variety of industry topics. Not to mention it allowed us to employ those rusty social skills that don’t arise too frequently in adult life – the same ones necessary when selecting a lunch table in the cafeteria in middle school for the first time. In the end, I was pretty proud of myself and the whole of table 26 for putting ourselves out there.

Get out of your comfort zone.

This is sort of a summation of the above points, but an important one nonetheless. I remember when I bought the tickets to the conferences, I was super jazzed. But then a funny thing happened as the dates approached…my enthusiasm turned to dread as I pictured a day away from my computer, my Outlook, my Guy and Gallard salad at 1pm, and most importantly, a day of productivity. We all know the feeling – the one that says, “but a day outside of the office means I will fall behind!” Nah – it will springboard you forward – so go for it!

The michael alan group is a full-service experiential marketing agency & event production company. Check out our work and our team, and drop us a line to chat about the experiential opportunities for professional development.

Tech It Out: Our Experience at EventTech ’15

When people think of event design, technology is not typically one of the first words that come to mind. Rather, the focus is placed on the physical design of the space (my personal favorite part of the process!), ensuring the event runs smoothly and creating a positive attendee experience. While these aspects are critical considerations, I can also tell you that in our rapidly evolving industry, the integration of technology is just as crucial. I had the privilege to attend Event Marketer’s EventTech Live in Las Vegas this November and was amazed at the event technologies that are new to the scene and existing platforms that keep continuing to grow.

Not only did I leave Las Vegas with a few unused $5 gambling chips from the Bellagio, but with an arsenal of event technologies to bring back to the MAG Team. With that, here are my favorite top 5 technologies I learned about and experienced at the event:

1. Virtual Reality

It’s here to stay and keeps getting better & better. Globacore is a leading company that has been at the forefront of Virtual Reality over the years.  They combine physical and digital elements to make users feel completely immersed in an activation or game… whether it be creating a digital environment like they did in Paperdude which brought the classic arcade game Paperboy to life with a real spin bike or by setting up their own camera rigs to create a reality experience from the ground up. It goes to show you that when it comes to incorporating Virtual Reality into a consumer experience, the sky can quite literally be the limit.

Oculus Rift + Kinect + KickR = Our Homage to Paperboy: PaperDude VR from Globacore on Vimeo.

2. Mobile Charging Stations

They might be a tried & true technology, but nonetheless one that continues to increase engagement at an activation and serves as a great value-add. You might have thought you’ve seen them all but Brightbox is leading the “charge” with their secure charging stations whereby a kiosk (freestanding, tabletop or wall mounted) featuring locked slots, branded elements and if desired, digital ads and survey integrations. Guests receive a card that they first swipe into the machine, open a slot, plug their phone in, lock it up and walk away leaving their phone to charge securely. Pretty much a no-brainer.


Image courtesy of brightboxcharge.com.

3. Social, Social, Social

It’s almost 2016, you can’t have a campaign without it. Not only do you need social, but you want to also measure it. Postano not only aggregates and measures social media data using user-generated content featuring hashtags and a brand’s own social accounts, but also turns that data into a visual display that can be featured at your event. With Postano, you get a front-and-back-end system and a variety of “add-ons” like an app you can use to moderate your display feed on-the-go, a function that can respond to your guests content asking for permission to repost their Instagram or Twitter post, and even integrate feeds on your existing company’s website.

4. Polling

What’s an event without information? Polling an audience is a tale as old as time and has been done in countless ways, but meetoo has upped the ante by creating an interactive polling and real-time messaging platform that can be incorporated directly into your meeting. Attendees have the option to download the meetoo app to participate or simply use the web app via URL link to get involved. Not only can polling be accomplished with endless setting options, but there is also a plug-in to incorporate live polling into PowerPoint directly making the process even more seamless. Gathering information just got even easier.


Image courtesy of meetoo.io.

5. Networking

When it comes down to it, the reason we put on events is to elicit some level of networking, reaction and interaction.  We are always looking for ways to not only have the brand engage with the audience but to have the audience interact with each other. Enter Proxfinity, a platform that works to increase networking at events using back-end data gathered by attendees during registration or onsite. Proxfinity provides attendees with a physical device that attaches to your badge, uses algorithms to visually connect two nearby attendees (either by a common colored light that appears or displaying each other’s initials on the badge). The amount of uses are endless – use it to identify leads at events, training purposes, or to purely get your audience connected together.

There you have it..technology is everywhere and with good reason. When it comes to planning your event, you must really consider your client’s goals for the campaign to not only produce an aesthetically beautiful event but also to narrow down on which technologies would best elevate and maximize your event’s impact.  And with the help of innovative, progressive and ever-evolving partners like the ones above, I know the events we put on have a chance to reach that status and that works for me.


Author Allie Lewbel onsite at EventTech ’15. Header image courtesy of eventmarketer.com

How We Holiday: A Look Back at MAG’s Holiday Activations & Events


Similar to Buddy the Elf, the michael alan group is a big fan of celebrating the holiday season. Throughout the years, the MAG team has found this time of year to be exciting and special for targeting consumers. There seems to be an extra bit of jingle and happiness in the air making activations and participants more interested and engaged. Looking back or “TBT”ing, the michael alan group has executed some very holiday-esque programs to spread cheer. Let’s take a look at a few of our favorites!

The Flatiron Ugly Sweater Happy Hour

During the holiday season, everyone attends at least one ugly sweater party if not two! We took this idea and paired it with our Flatiron 23 Days of Holiday Cheer program two years in a row. Our first year consisted of a live event complete with judges and a runway for contestants to strut their stuff and showcase their sweaters. Passersby stopped in their footsteps to clap and root for the participants. The winner was selected based on the creativity of their sweater and their answer to a random holiday question. Photos of the event and winner were featured on social media outlets for all to see. To mix it up a bit for the following year, we worked with Café El Presidente to throw an ugly sweater happy hour. This removed the competitive aspect and focused on bringing New Yorkers together for some music, food, drinks and the opportunity to spin the custom Flatiron prize wheel. Once again, everyone enjoyed themselves as they celebrated their love for ugly sweater parties.


ION Gingerbread House

The holiday season would not be complete without the mounds of candy, chocolates and sweets we indulge in. One of our favorite sweet-filled campaigns was the ION Gingerbread House. For this event, we created a large-scale gingerbread house complete with all REAL ingredients such as graham crackers, icing, gummy bears, candy canes, etc. The whole house was edible! Well it was… until we sprayed it with preservatives. 🙂 Fun fact, each gummy bear was 5 pounds and if you dare to ask –contained over 1,600 calories. Talk about a sweet treat.

The edible house was placed on a flatbed and toured around NYC targeting media agencies. Agency representatives were encouraged to climb on board and create their own tin of goodies. Participants took lots of photos outside of the gingerbread house to share with their family and friends. The ION team also stopped by to thank reps and wish them a great holiday season and Happy New Year!


Union Square Partnership Photo-Op

Smiles are big and bright during the month of December due to all the festivities, lights, goodies, giving and upbeat singalongs. To create smiles with our friends at the Union Square Partnership, we assisted with launching a holiday greetings photo op. The photo experience was complete with a custom holiday themed background, hand-held props and of course, a complimentary print-out keepsake. Consumers of all ages happily participated in snapping their photo and sharing it on social media. To top off the event, we passed out branded Union Square cookies and fresh hot chocolate.

MAG Holidays

Don’t be fooled, MAG always puts aside some time to plan their own holiday shenanigans. Each year we host a few traditions including a Secret Santa swap and donations to New York Cares through their Winter Wishes gift-giving program. And of course, the calendar year wouldn’t be complete without the annual MAG holiday party. These have been known to feature MAG Libs, specialty cocktails, karaoke, and custom videos produced in-house dubbed The Real Employees of MAG. All of these activities not only bring the team together to celebrate the holidays but they also allow us to reminisce over another successful year together.

From all your friends at MAG, we wish you a joyful holiday season and a happy and healthy New Year!


Giving & Gratitude: Our Thanksgiving Recipe For Success

…plus a look at other brands who have thrived by giving back!

Next year the michael alan group will be celebrating its 15 year anniversary. When we started the company there were just 3 of us, subletting a corner of an office, bartering our services for all of our start-up needs, everything from our logo to legal incorporation. My hope and dream was to be where we are today, listed among the top experiential marketing firms in the country. Doing great work for great brands. Most important though are the people behind the projects. An amazing group of creative, resourceful, and professional individuals who arrive at work every day to design and produce things that haven’t been done before. For their dedication I am extremely thankful, and we do what we can to show it.

We created a day called #MAGunplugged. It’s a chance for the entire team to turn off the phones for the day (for any clients reading this, not to worry, we have Project Managers in the office manning the fort) and take some time to appreciate each other. We do this every quarter, each time doing something new and relative to the season. This past Fall we went apple picking which resulted in about 25 bags of apples, 5 servings of apple spiced donuts, and 2 cases of wine from the onsite winery.

The crew of The Michael Alan Group poses with the apples they gathered at an orchard during MAG's annual Unplugged day.
The MAG team poses with their haul of delicious apples after spending the day at an orchard unplugged from their phones.

We also take #MAGmorale quite seriously. While I can’t expect everyone to be happy ALL of the time, I do what we can so they’re happy MOST of the time. Whether it’s our own MAG prize wheel offering things like $100 Amazon gift cards or an extra day off, or ordering in lunch on a rainy day. .

We also give back to others as well, having instituted #MAGvolunteers. Each year we pick a different charitable cause to support. Whether it’s volunteering at the Bowery Mission, or sponsoring and serving food at the Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen, it’s especially rewarding when serving our own community here in NYC.


An amazing group of creative, resourceful, and professional individuals who arrive at work every day to design and produce things that haven’t been done before. For their dedication I am extremely thankful, and we do what we can to show it.

Giving and gratitude go hand in hand, especially as they relate to marketing campaigns in general. How a brand speaks to its customer base, how they choose to thank them for their loyalty and support, and how they choose to give back, clearly plays a significant role when it comes to their brand messaging.

Everyone knows the story of TOMS, for each pair of shoes you purchase, they supply pair of shoes for a child in need. To date they have provided more than 45 million pairs of new shoes to children in need. Even more interesting thought is how they have since helped in so many other ways:

  • Through TOMS eyewear purchases they’ve helped restore sight to over 325 thousand people in need.
  • Through TOM’S Roasting Co they’ve helped provide over 175,000 weeks of safe water to people in need.

40 million women across the world give birth each year without the help of a skilled birth attendant. So with the purchase of a TOM’S bag, you’re helping support the delivery of safe birth kits, training for skilled birth attendants, and healthy delivery for new born baby and mom.

Lastly, nearly 1 out of every 3 students, aged 12-18 in the United States, reports being bullied. By purchasing a Stand Up Backpack you’re helping prevent incidents of bullying through training of school communities, and training of Crisis Counselors, both of which result in improved safety, academic performance and well-being of middle and high school students.

There are countless other success stories demonstrating how brands find their own unique way to give back. Take Tide’s Loads Of Hope. As their site states, “ten years ago, in response to the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, Tide created Loads of Hope: a mobile laundromat developed to restore a sense of normalcy and dignity through the basic comfort of clean clothing for those in the midst of chaos. Since that time, Tide has helped renew hope for nearly 45,000 families across the country affected by natural disasters, from tornadoes in Missouri to flooding in South Carolina.”

As we celebrate thanksgiving this weekend, most of us will be surrounded by friends and family, and inherently feel what we’re grateful for. In a perfect world, every day is an opportunity to take a minute to stop and appreciate all that you have. But that’s not always possible. We get caught up and sidetracked with both personal and professional hurdles. At least there’s one day, appropriately titled, that forces us to stop and do so. Take a minute this weekend to let someone know how special they are, and maybe even take a minute for yourself as well.

I’m going to go now, my kids are in the other room screaming at each other, which is probably a good time to tell them how much I love them.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Marketing To With Millennials: Why Experiential Marketing is Extremely Effective With This Audience

The M word. In today’s marketing landscape, everyone is trying to crack the code to reach the coveted millennial audience, a group that comprises ¼ of our entire US population.

Millennials continue to mystify brand marketers and agencies alike as they defy conventional consumer behaviors of preceding generations. Their media consumption habits (aka cord cutting!) have turned traditional advertising models upside down. So how are brands successfully answering these challenges? By creating experiences. Here’s a look at why experiential marketing is a key factor in any millennial marketing media mix (say that ten times fast!).


They care about themselves, their bodies, their carbon footprint and their impact on the world. This emphasis on quality means that they must experience a brand personally in order to value and evangelize it.

It’s Personal

Millennials require a personal connection to a brand. Pervasiveness is no longer enough to make a brand relevant. This generation was raised to be independent thinkers, to not follow consensus, to make their own decisions… and these ideologies are reflected in their brand loyalty and purchase habits. My generation (yes, I’m old) bought cereal because of the prize inside the box, this generation buys cereal based on which companies use non-GMO ingredients and donate a proceed of their profits to charity. This generation is too smart. They are bombarded with brand messaging and sponsors everywhere they turn, so it’s imperative they are discerning. They care about themselves, their bodies, their carbon footprint and their impact on the world. This emphasis on quality means that they must experience a brand personally in order to value and evangelize it.

Erin Mill appeared on the panel “Multicultural Marketing to Millennials” at the Horowitz Research Multicultural Marketing Summit.
Erin Mills’ on the “Multicultural Marketing to Millennials” panel appearance at the Horowitz Research Multicultural Marketing Summit.


It’s Social

Rule #1 in the Millennial universe? If it’s not on social media, it didn’t happen. The best marketing programs leverage social media during every aspect of the campaign. Experiential programs provide an organic life-cycle during which to achieve this. They engage audiences online before an event during the pre-promotional period. During the actual event, live experiences create compelling content, which can be shared online instantly. Finally, the content created can also be repackaged (sizzle reel, infographic, influencers, earned media) and put back online to continue the conversation after the event.

Lyft's fuzzy pink mustaches made for perfect photo props on board Comedy Central's Broad City RV.
We focused on these methodologies about millennials when we created the Broad City RV to help Comedy Central promote the second season of the hit show.


It’s Accountable

Millennials expect to have a conversation with the brands they adopt. And that conversation is not just between the brand and the consumer, it’s between EVERYONE! The third party aspect of the brand conversation is now the biggest. Millennials value what their social circles are saying about your brand far more than what you’re saying about it. Experiential provides the opportunity for that conversation to take place live, with product discovery, trial & feedback all occurring in real time. It’s a valuable chance to connect with an audience firsthand while also learning about how consumers react to your products. This positions you to be accountable to your audience – responding to their needs and wants.

Ultimately, millennials want to be marketed with, not at. They wish to be part of the process & dialogue. Consider them a collaborative audience and allow that to shape your next millennial marketing campaign!

The michael alan group is a full-service experiential marketing agency & event production company. Check out our work and our team, and drop us a line to chat about planning an experiential campaign certain to capture millennial attention.

4 Key Qualities of the Best Brand Ambassadors

At MAG, our Account Execs plan extraordinary activations; often juggling multiple campaigns at a time. Our design team doodles endlessly, bringing ideas to life daily. And Dug, the office dog, may soon master “Rollover.”

But none of this work would be worth a dime without our remarkable crew of Brand Ambassadors. From facing early mornings to braving wild costumes, our BA’s dive directly into project execution, delivering fine-tuned messaging and experiences directly to consumers.

Over the years we’ve worked with some of the best around, and we’ve learned just what elements make our Brand Ambassadors top-notch. Here are the qualities we expect in each of our BA’s:

Dependability and Independence

First and foremost, any Brand Ambassador MUST be punctual and prepared for the role they will play. Even the most organized activations can quickly turn chaotic, and we expect all of our BA’s to execute their duties independently should a manager need to temporarily leave. These qualities also go hand-in-hand with professionalism, and we ensure all of our BA’s act responsibly and courteously at all times.

Enthusiasm and Energy

Nobody wants to sample a s’more from Negative Nancy or pose at a party with Gloomy Gary. A major part of being a Brand Ambassador requires being friendly, approachable, and ready to eagerly introduce consumers to a brand. We certainly don’t expect (or advise) anyone to channel their high school cheerleading days, but an outstanding BA consistently maintains an air of positivity and liveliness. It’s your time to shine, Happy Harry.

Brand Ambassadors dressed as modern "milk men" while serving milk and cookie shots and assisting employees with filling their cookie bags.
Just some of the wild costumes MAG’s Brand Ambassadors may wear. Here, our “milk men and women” serve delicious treats at the Twentieth Television Milk and Cookie Bar.


Adaptability and Resilience

If there’s one thing everyone in events can agree upon, it’s that ANYTHING can happen. While a manager or account exec will handle any major complications, there are several obstacles that can arise that Brand Ambassadors must calmly and effectively address. Between wild weather changes, spikes in foot traffic, or a flux in supplies, a day as a BA can often be grueling, and the best of the best can handle it all.

Charm and Spunk

All other characteristics aside, the secret ingredient to a fantastic Brand Ambassador is simple: personality. We never hire brand-babbling robots (and not strictly because of their incessant malfunctions). Consumers want genuine conversations relevant to a brand, and our BA’s are unique individuals from a variety of backgrounds. That’s why, at MAG, we handle staffing in-house via a dedicated Staffing Department, and, because we know our BA’s well, we can promise to provide the most charming, spunky, and best fitting Brand Ambassador for any target audience.

Interested in becoming a Brand Ambassador? Sure, we’ve boasted about our fantastic crew, but we’re always welcoming new faces and we’d love to chat! Email our Staffing Coordinator, Marivic, here. (Tip: She’s a BIG Broadway theatre fan, so don’t hesitate to mention your favorite show!)

The michael alan group is a full-service experiential marketing agency & event production company. Check out our work and our team, and drop us a line to chat about selecting the perfect staff for your next activation.